Cultivating partnerships and putting down roots
Kozak, Melissa Scott
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Because of the limited understanding of learning in school gardens, a participatory action research study was conducted. A school enrichment cluster enabled a group of diverse students to explore their interests in vegetable gardening. Using a social constructionist framework, with sociocultural theory and funds of knowledge, I inquired into the process of learning and developing partnerships in school gardens. Qualitative data collection methods were utilized through observations, interviews, weekly family letters, and artifact collection. Through participatory action research, the students formed a community as they identified a problem, exchanged information to plan, and evaluated their actions. Teachers participated in their action plan and guided them in accessing funds of knowledge from family and community members. As they learned in the garden experientially, they learned about regionality, seasonality, and plant resources. They became collaborative action researchers and as they evaluated their garden accomplishments, they initiated social transformation in their community with their future aspirations of eating garden produce in the cafeteria. This study also addresses the learning implications of school gardens, as well as the challenges that can arise when collaborating with families and community members. Future actions within the local community are also discussed regarding the function of school gardens as community spaces, as well as farm to school opportunities.